Power-play powers Natives to victory

By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

Neepawa’s power-play and penalty kill proved to be deciding factors in the Neepawa Natives’ impressive 6-1 win over the Steinbach Pistons on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Neepawa went 3-for-5 with the man advantage, while killing off six penalties, a perfect night on the PK.

Wednesday’s game in Neepawa was the first meeting between the two clubs since the Pistons eliminated Neepawa from the playoffs back in March, in a hard fought six game series. In this most recent showdown the Pistons would score first, as Tristen Robbins put away his first of the season. Just 14 seconds later, Neepawa replied, as Zach Johnson earned his second goal of the year. Before the end of the first, Breaden Binda provided the lead for Neepawa, with the team’s first power-play marker of the game.

In the second period, Neepawa began to pull away by scoring three times. Nolan Richards started it off with a goal just over five minutes into the middle frame. Ashton Anderson, of Rivers, followed that with a power-play effort with 6:39 left in the period. That was Anderson’s eighth goal of the season. A few minutes later, Brett Namaka added to Neepawa’s advantage, with another goal on the power-play. This offensive onslaught provided a four goal cushion for the Natives heading into the third.

For the final 20 minutes of regulation, Minnedosa’s Ryan Heino put away his third of the season, giving the Natives the 6-1 win over one of the MJHL’s top teams. Neepawa outshot Steinbach 36-34. Evan Robert collected the win with a 33 save performance. After the game, Robert commended the team in front of him for their solid play within their own zone.

“What’s really helping is that [the team] is strong defensively this season. When I’m making the first save, the guys in front of me are doing what it takes to clear the puck out and ensure there is no second shot. It’s been a real team effort and that does make things a bit easier,” stated Robert.

Natives head coach Dustin Howden concurred with that estimate of the team’s defensive play. He added the everyone is really paying attention to the little details, especially when it comes to special teams.

“Special teams are a huge part of today’s game and tonight it all just clicked. It’s a good feeling to have that happen. It builds confidence in the players. Obviously, we’d prefer not to take penalties, but when it does happen, the guys are playing very well and doing what’s needed to keep our opposition from taking advantage,” Howden said. “The power-play, as well, did well tonight. We took advantage of the chances we were given and if you are able to do that on a consistent basis, you do well in this league.”

The victory improved the Natives’ regular season record to 5-2-1 and put them just a single point behind the Pistons and Virden Oil Capitals (both 6-2-0), in the league standings.

Prior to their win over Steinbach, the Natives claimed an 8-2 decision over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines on Tuesday, Oct. 10 in Wayway. Noah Morin earned the win with a 31 save night, while Ashton Anderson had a four point performance (three goals – one assist).

Neepawa’s next three games are all on the road, as they’ll play in Winnipeg on Sunday, Oct. 15. The Natives then travel north to face the OCN Blizzard for a pair of games Oct. 17-18. The next home game at the Yellowhead Centre will be Friday, Oct. 20. when the Natives host the Winkler Flyers. Start time for that game will be at 7:30 p.m.